Mr. Holder was surprised to hear the visitor´s name: it was a very famous one, known all over the world—one of the highest and most noble names in England.
“Show him in at once,” said Mr. Holder.“Don´t keep him waiting.”
The man who came into the room seemed to be in a hurry, and rather anxious. “Mr. Holder!” he said. “I am told that you often lend money.” “The bank will do that to people of honour,” said Alexander Holder. “It is most important that I should have fifty thousand pounds at once.”
“For how long, may I ask, do you want this amount?”
“I shall be able to give you the money backnext week, but I must pay out this fifty thousand at once.”
“Can you leave with me something of value, to keep until you bring back the money?” said Holder.
“Yes. That is what I expected to do. Perhaps you have heard of the Crown of Diamonds?”
“One of the most precious public possession in the country? Certainly I have.”
The visitor opened a case which he carried. Inside there lay the mostbeautiful piece of jewellery.
“There are 39 huge diamonds,” he said. “And the gold in which the precious stones are set is too valuable to put a price on. This crown is worth double the money which I am asking you to lend me, and I will leave it with you,”
Mr. Holder picked up the crown. He looked at the man who gave it to him doubtfully.
“You think it has no value?” said the man.
“Not at all. Ionly doubt “
“Ah, you think it is not mine, and I should not offer it to you. Well, I would certainly not do so if I were not sure that I shall be able to repay you the money. All I ask is that this matter may be kept secret, and that you take care of the crown. There would be great trouble if any harm came to it.”
Mr. Holder called for his bank officer and ordered him to pay out the fifty thousandpounds in notes.
When his visitor had gone, Alexander Holder looked at the crown, and began to wish that he had not agreed to keep it. But it was too late to change his mind, so he locked it up carefully until he had finished his day´s work.
At the end of the day, he decided that it was not wise to leave it at the bank. He thought he would carry the case with him for the next fewdays, so that it would always be within his reach at home or at the bank. So he went home to streatham, carrying the crown of Diamonds with him.
When he arrived, he took the case upstairs to his private sitting room and locked it safely away.
In the house at Streatham Mr. holder had his son Arthur and a young girl named Mary, who was the daughter of his dead brother. There were two men servants,who did not sleep in the house, and three women servants who had been there for mane years. Another, Lucy Parr, was new. She had come only a few months before, but she brought letters to show that her character was excellent, and she worked well. She was a very pretty girl, and more than one man called to see her, but she seemed a good girl in every way.
His son Arthur was the only one in the housewho caused Mr. Holder any trouble.
“People tell me I have spoiled him,” Alexander said to himself. “Perhaps I have. When my wife died he was all I had to love.”
Arthur did not want to work in his father´s bank. He enjoyed an easy life among rich friends. Watching horse racing was his favourite occupation. His friends were rich, and so he spent more money than his father gave him, and he oftenowed money.
Sir George Burnwell was the friend whom Arthur saw most of, and he often came to the house at Streatham. He seemed a pleasant fellow, with good looks and nice manners, but Alexander Holder did not trust him.
Mary, his brother´s daughter, was the one person in his house who always pleased him. She was sweet, loving and beautiful, and as tender and quiet and gentle as a woman...